Old Mourning Cloak

2007_4_15_Old_Mourning_Cloak_files_shapeimage_2.pngA butterfly that lives 10-12 months, emerging in June. The margins are yellow in younger butterflies and fade to white, so this one is probably from last year. It was sitting on the ground near our campsite at Josephine Saddle in Madera Canyon. We also heard wise old ravens croaking advice that day as we climbed Mt. Wrightson (Sally and I).

On top of Mount Wrightson

2007_4_15_On_top_of_Mount_Wrightson_files_shapeimage_2.pngI’ve been meaning to have an overnight backpacking trip with Sally for a while (and before that, Nell and Abby). We finally got around to it. We rented a tent (3-person to hold Euler as well), bought a backpack for Sally, and took off with my motley collection of camping equipment, including the pots I have had since I used to go hiking in Tasmania in the 70s. My pack was about 50-60 lbs (we had to carry a lot of water as well, since we couldn’t be sure of water sources). The 2.5 mile hike up to Josephine Saddle was an ordeal, my hips creaking with every step. We camped there, had a good campfire with traditional camp cooking (fish hash), and hiked up Mt. Wrightson the next day. There was a biting cold wind on the summit.

Blue Paloverde

2007_4_8_Blue_Paloverde_files_shapeimage_2.pngThe paloverdes in the wash seem to be mostly blues (all yellow flowers, larger leaves, thorns at joints), although I’m sure I’ve seen a yellow before (largest petal white, smaller leaves, thorns at tips). They are all in glorious flower at the moment. They can put out flowers before leaves because of the green trunks. The Catclaw Acacias are just putting out catkins, whereas the Whitethorns are still barely putting out leaves. The hackberry bushes are leafing out, so that the contrasting pale dead leaves from winter make it look in flower from a distance; the Desert Brooms have the same effect with the bracts from last years flowers.

Heard the flycatchers again, and also a probably Lucy’s Warbler, but didn’t see either. It was almost exactly a year ago that I saw the first Lucy’s of the spring. As then, the Longleaf Ephedra have their funny brittle flowers on them.


Desert castle housing development   

2007_4_5_Desert_castle_housing_development_____files_shapeimage_2.pngThe next day I drove back along the inland road, stopping at Wadi Bani Khalid and the Wahiba sands on the way back. The wadi was much more accessible, with picnic tables all around and beautiful deep pools. The sands were a deep ochre-orange-red color. I only stayed a few minutes, being in a hurry to get to the airport.

The house or office building in the photo was one of a serious of identical ones just outside one of the towns I passed.

Flat tire in Oman

2007_4_4_Flat_tire_in_Oman_files_shapeimage_2.pngThe last two days of my stay in Oman I rented a four-wheel drive and drove down the coast from Muscat to Sur. I had bought a book, “Off-road in Oman”, and figured that if there was a book with this title, then it was o.k. to go off-road in Oman. Surprisingly, the coast road was indeed partly off-road, since it was in the process of being replaced by a dual-carriageway freeway, and sometimes the process of tearing down the old road had gotten ahead of the process of building the new one.

I took an off-road to Wadi as Suwayh, and got this flat tire on the way back, after having over-enthusiastically plunged my way down the road the book suggested for returning to the main highway, and recognized too late that it was washed out. I returned to the main dirt road, ascending some scary boulder-strewn patches, and either suffered, or discovered, the flat tire there. No problem, as you can see.

The rest of the trip down I decided I need to stick to the main road, but had a lovely swim in the ocean, a late-afternoon stroll around Wadi ash Shab, and arrived at the Sur Beach Hotel in time to claim the last room. I dozed, then went into town for dinner, and stumbled on driving around the town afterwards on the road to the beach where the turtles lay their eggs, Ras al Jinz. It was an hour drive around the long bay, and I got there around 9:30, the last moment as turns out when the turtles were there. An Omani guide greeted me and took me down to the beach. The moon was glittering on the see, and all the way at the end we found a solitary turtle, something like 5 feet wide, depositing miraculous white spheres in a large shallow pit in the sand. We spotted another turtle dragging herself back down the beach until a wave wafted her out to sea.

Driving back through Sur I circled the city, the moon shining over dhows both used and rotting. What a wonderful day—the first time in a long time that I have taken an adventure alone with no timetable.


2007_4_3_Mohamed_files_shapeimage_2.pngThe day after the conference ended, we took a trip to Niswa. The highlight was Misfat a beautiful town of stone and mud-brick buidlings on the side of a hill, with a lovely plunging system of channels for distributing water, groves of date palms, and views over a wadi to the neighboring barren and rocky ridge. This is Mohamed, the local organizer of the conference, and friend of Lotfi. The fort at Niswa was a disappointment—it has been annihilated in a coating of Portland cement. We stopped at a store in Niswa and bought bread, olives, cheese, and ayran (a salty, cumin-flavored olive drink), then repaired to a park by the main wadi, with a channel of cold clear water running through it, and sunbirds singing in the trees.